by Meghna MehtaNov 16, 2019
Famed Australian architect Glenn Murcutt AO, who was announced as the designer for the coveted MPavilion 2019 in February this year, recently unveiled his design concepts. The much anticipated pavilion, like its previous editions, will be built and displayed at the historic Queen Victoria Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. Conceived by Naomi Milgrom Foundation, MPavilion is Australia’s foremost architectural commission and annual design event - a design and cultural laboratory, consisting of a series of talks, workshops, performances and installations.
Every year the foundation welcomes one new pavilion, which is created by an international architect, and is open to the public. Previous designers of the MPavilion include Carme Pinós of Estudio Carme Pinós, Barcelona (2018); Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten of OMA, Netherlands (2017); Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai, India (2016); Amanda Levete of AL_A, Britain (2015), and Sean Godsell of Sean Godsell Architects, Australia (2014).
The design of MPavilion 2019
A pavilion, in its traditional sense, is a temporary structure, much like a tent, used for public gatherings. Delivering Murcutt’s idea of what a pavilion must be, in its aesthetic and its purpose, and bespoke of his linear, modest and sustainable style of architecture, this year's design rests on and merges with the Australian landscape, offering a view towards Melbourne’s skyline and the river Yarra.
The MPavilion is, firstly, a real pavilion. Historically, a pavilion is a tent, a light and temporary building. I felt... a crisp white building that at night could be lit from within its roof, like a lantern in the Queen Victoria Gardens, giving the pavilion a feeling of lightness, would sit comfortably in the location. The pavilion is designed so that it can also be very easily dismantled and relocated. – Glenn Murcutt AO
The structure's form is influenced by Murcutt's memory of using a light aircraft’s wing as temporary shade during a trip to the tropics. The rectangular (almost 30m long) and steel framed structure possesses a height of 3.9m, with an internal ceiling height of 2.5m. Supported on columns spaced at 4.8m, the roof has a tensioned translucent fabric that will be lit from within at night.
The usage of aircraft fabric for the roof, and the overall design of the pavilion, would provide good acoustic conditions for a performance or orchestra. The convex, long, hipped curved roof’s edge, resembles an aircraft’s aileron.
Exposed along its north and south facades, the structure adapts to most weather settings. The pavilion faces north, towards the river, inviting good climatic conditions, and achieves shade within its support columns. The south side has electronically operated, retractable fabric blinds, which provide protection from the wind. The recesses at each of its ends are membrane-lined externally, and have timber-slat pivot doors internally.
Commenting on his design, Murcutt said, “For me it was central to establish a sense of ‘place’ for visitors - to view from within the building, the gardens, the river, and the city.” The pavilion, thus, addresses the city, and displays a foreground (the gardens), a middle ground (the river) and the distant ground (the city).
The initiative for the MPavilion was established by Naomi Milgrom Foundation in 2014 with an aim to elevate Australian cultural life. Initially launched as a four-year project, it received extension for another two years in 2017. Naomi Milgrom AO, the founder of the foundation, says, “Glenn’s very thoughtfully considered MPavilion reflects everything the world has come to love and appreciate about his distinctly Australian design practice over 50 years. I am excited to bring a new Glenn Murcutt design to life, for the community to share.”
Australia’s sole Pritzker Prize laureate, architect Glenn Murcutt AO, is also revered as a teacher and a critic. His designs often become part of the Australian landscape, following his ethos – ‘touch the earth lightly’. Murcutt’s works are also known for being climatically responsible, multi-functional, vastly economical and conspicuously Australian.
Apart from being an Officer of the Order of Australia, Murcutt is a recipient of Alvar Aalto Medal, the Australian Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. His most noteworthy works include the Australian Islamic Centre, Melbourne (in collaboration with architect Hakan Elevli), and the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre, Riversdale Shoalhaven NSW (with architects Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark), among others.
In an age of capital driven, often ostentatious architecture, Murcutt stays loyal to his modest method of designing, respectful of site conditions and giving precedence to climatically responsible strategies. He is trying to achieve a chaste vision with the MPavilion, through its white fabric roof and lantern style lighting. With this design, he is delivering a platform for transient interactions within a pavilion, redefining the meaning of a ‘pavilion’ as a point of architectural discourse, with a fantastic view of the river and the city.
MPavilion will be open to the public from November 14, 2019 to March 22, 2020, in the Queen Victoria Gardens, Southbank Arts Precinct, Melbourne, Australia.